NFL Nation: Final Word AFC 2012 Week 6

Final Word: AFC West

October, 12, 2012
10/12/12
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 6:

Gonzo’s last AFC West hurrah: Former Kansas City and current Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez has said he likely will retire after the season. Fittingly, he gets to face the AFC West this season -- and he has been tremendous for the 5-0 Falcons. In Week 5, they will look to sweep the AFC West when Oakland visits the Georgia Dome. Gonzalez has scored a touchdown against each AFC West opponent so far; in total, he has 21 catches for 214 yards and three touchdowns against the conference. Let’s see what he goes for against Oakland.

Chiefs can’t hold onto the ball: Kansas City enters its game at Tampa Bay with an NFL-leading 19 turnovers in five games. The Chiefs are 1-4 for a lot of reasons, but averaging nearly four turnovers game is a crisis. It is the most turnovers through five games since the 1997 New Orleans Saints, who had 21 turnovers, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

[+] EnlargeDemaryius Thomas
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaPeyton Manning seemed to establish a deep connection with receiver Demaryius Thomas (88) against New England.
Manning and Thomas clicking: Demaryius Thomas is becoming Peyton Manning’s favorite deep target. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Manning threw passes of 15 yards or more nine times at New England in Week 5. He connected five times, all of them with Thomas, for 154 yards. Watch for Denver to try to build upon that relationship Monday night at San Diego.

Palmer is not connecting deep: One of the reasons Oakland traded for Carson Palmer last year was the deep ball. However, he is not succeeding in that area this season. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Palmer is 1-of-14 (7.1 percent) on throws more than 20 yards downfield this season. It the lowest completion percentage in the NFL. One reason Palmer’s percentage is so low is Oakland has had big injury problems at receiver. Perhaps the deep connection will come with better health for Oakland.

Rivers having trouble against Denver’s blitz: The Broncos have a strong pass rush and likely will show it against the Chargers. According to ESPN Stats & Information, quarterback Philip Rivers completed 46.9 percent of his throws last season when the Broncos sent five or more pass-rushers. The Broncos' defense have the fifth-best completion percentage using such pressure this season (52.2). The problem for Rivers is that he has taken a step back against the blitz. He has thrown no touchdowns and has been intercepted three times against extra pressure this season. He excelled in the area in 2009, when he threw 15 touchdown passes and was intercepted just four times.

Final Word: AFC East

October, 12, 2012
10/12/12
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 6:

Dolphins face Jeff Fisher: The Miami Dolphins were very close to landing Jeff Fisher as their next head coach. Upon returning to the NFL, Fisher narrowed his choices to the Dolphins and St. Louis Rams. Fisher eventually picked the Rams, and now his team will travel to Miami to face the Dolphins for the first time. This is a chance for Miami (2-3) and rookie head coach Joe Philbin to beat Fisher, who believed St. Louis (3-2) was a better job. Fisher said the Dolphins made the right choice in Philbin, who is proving to be solid in his first five games.

[+] EnlargeRyan Tannehill
Andrew Weber/US PresswireDolphins QB Ryan Tannehill will need plenty of protection at the line in Miami's game vs. St. Louis.
Protecting Tannehill: The Rams are coming off a season-high nine sacks last week in a win over the Arizona Cardinals. Pass protection will be important for the Dolphins if they are to hold off the Rams. Miami rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill continues to improve and has been sacked nine times all season. The Rams will bring a lot of pressure, and Miami's offensive line needs to hold up. Tannehill has been prone to rookie mistakes under pressure. He has six interceptions in five games.

Little guy, big target: New England Patriots Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker jabbed head coach Bill Belichick this week after catching a season-high 13 receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown. Welker was not a big part of the offense at the start of the season, but his targets have skyrocketed in the last few weeks. He has been targeted 36 times in the last three games. That has put his total targets up to 50 for the season, which is tied with Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline for seventh in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The injury to Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez contributed to Welker's becoming a big part of New England's offense again. But Welker has stepped up when his number has been called.

Jets grounded and pounded: The New York Jets have scored only one touchdown in the last eight quarters. It’s hard for New York to win with that kind of production from the offense and quarterback Mark Sanchez. The Jets aren't clicking on the ground or through the air. New York is ranked 28th in total offense and averaging just 12.5 points in its last four games. The good news is that starting tight end Dustin Keller and rookie receiver Stephen Hill are both expected to return from hamstring injuries in Sunday's matchup with the Indianapolis Colts.

Fitzpatrick's missing deep ball: The Buffalo Bills' offense is getting very predictable and easy to defend, in part because quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is struggling with the deep ball. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Fitzpatrick is one of the NFL's worst deep-ball passers. He is just 4-of-15 (26.7 percent) on passes more than 20 yards, which ranks 27th in the league. Three of Fitzpatrick's interceptions have also come attempting to throw the deep ball. He passed for a season-low 126 yards in last week's 45-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. If opponents do not respect the deep pass, it is difficult to get the passing game going underneath.

Final Word: AFC North

October, 12, 2012
10/12/12
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 6:

Home sweet home: The Ravens are among the best teams in the NFL, sporting a 4-1 record. But no team is better than Baltimore at home. The Ravens' 13-game winning streak (14 if you include playoffs) is tops in the league and no other team has more than eight in a row. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Baltimore is averaging 11 more points at home than on the road and has a plus-13 turnover differential (28 takeaways and 15 giveaways). Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions during the streak at M&T Bank Stadium. Dallas has lost six of its past 10 road games.

Tale of two streaks: It's common knowledge now that the Browns have lost 11 consecutive games, the longest active streak in NFL and one that ties the longest losing streak in team history. Cleveland also has dropped 12 straight games in the AFC North. The Browns' last division win came Oct. 3, 2010, against Cincinnati at home. The Browns are looking to end those streaks Sunday against the Bengals at home. Rookie running back Trent Richardson needs to be a big factor for Cleveland. He has scored a rushing touchdown in four straight games. His 303 yards rushing is the second-most by a Browns rookie in the team's first five games in the Super Bowl era (Kevin Mack had 356 in 1985). Richardson totaled 145 yards and two touchdowns last month against the Bengals.

[+] EnlargeRay Rice
AP Photo/G. Newman LowranceRay Rice has struggled in games after breaking 100 yards rushing; he had 102 in Week 5.
No encore for Rice: Ravens running back Ray Rice is coming off his 15th career 100-yard running game. The Cowboys are allowing 108 yards rushing per game, which puts their run defense in the middle of the league. So Rice is going to have a productive game, right? Not necessarily. In the 14 previous games immediately after running for 100 yards, Rice has just one 100-yd game and three rushing touchdowns. His rushing average is 61.9 yards.

Not respecting the run: Not establishing the run has hurt the Bengals' passing game. Not only has Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton failed to produce a single 30-yard pass play on play-action, but he’s been sacked about once every seven dropbacks when using play-action. Look for Cincinnati to set up the pass with the run against the Browns, who gave up 243 yards rushing to the Giants on Sunday. Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis gained 75 yards on 21 carries against Cleveland last month, a pedestrian 3.6-yard average.

Going deep against Big D: The Ravens have a much more explosive offense than last year. Baltimore had 57 plays of at least 20 yards in 2011, which ranked 22nd in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Ravens have already produced 30 such plays this year, which leads the league. Much of the credit goes to Flacco. He is the only NFL quarterback whose average pass is traveling more than 10 yards downfield (10.5). It will be a challenge to stretch the field against Dallas. The Cowboys have allowed 12 passes over 20 yards this season, which is tied for the seventh-fewest in the league.

Final Word: AFC South

October, 12, 2012
10/12/12
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 6:

Excellent scrambling: Per ESPN Stats and Info -- Andrew Luck has scrambled for a first down nine times this season, most in the NFL. His running abilities are extraordinary, and it’s a huge factor for a team that doesn’t rush particularly well with running backs. This week at the Jets, rookie Vick Ballard will work as the lead back because Donald Brown is recovering from knee surgery. It’s hardly all running for Luck. He has thrown three touchdowns in the last two minutes of the second or fourth quarter this season, tied for most in the NFL.

[+] EnlargeGary Kubiak
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesGary Kubiak and the Texans will try to stay perfect on Sunday against Green Bay.
Texans’ forecast: Under the current playoff format (since 1990), 38 teams have started 5-0, not including this year. Thirty-four of those teams made the postseason, 25 won at least one playoff game, and 16 reached the Super Bowl. Eight of them claimed the Lombardi Trophy. The Texans are hoping after Sunday night we’ll be updating these numbers for teams that started 6-0.

Slowing Rodgers: Green Bay is the second team to have a losing record through five games the season after winning 15 or more games, joining the 1999 Vikings. A year after leading the league with 35 points per game, they are averaging just 22.4, which ranks 18th. Aaron Rodgers and the offense will face a Texans defense that has held opposing quarterbacks to a QBR of just 11.6, easily the best in the NFL.

Age and beauty: Reggie Wayne leads the NFL with 126.5 receiving yards per game and nine receptions per game this season. No player Wayne’s age (he’ll be 34 in November) or older has ever had more than 91 receiving yards per game in a season. Wayne will see a lot of Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie played great last week for New York against Houston’s Andre Johnson. Wayne has been targeted 28 times when lining up on the left side of the formation, and 28 times when lining up on the right side of the formation this season. In his last two seasons with Peyton Manning (2009-10), 82.9 percent of Wayne’s targets came after lining up on the left side of the formation.

Also: The Colts have lost nine straight road games, tied for the second-longest active road losing streak. … Rodgers has lost three straight road starts for the first time since 2008, and he’s been sacked 17 times combined in those games. … The Colts are 11-3 in 14 road games against the Jets dating to 1989. …The Titans get a weekend off after their upset of the Steelers, and could have Jake Locker back under center on Oct. 21 in Buffalo. …The Jaguars have a bye and return to action in Week 7 at Oakland, with a trip to Green Bay the week after that.

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